2018 Muscadines

Discussion in 'Beginners Wine Making Forum' started by M38A1, Jul 8, 2018.

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  1. M38A1

    M38A1 Supporting Members Supporting Member

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    Last year we tried our hand at making wine and although tart, was certainly drinkable. I hope this year I've learned more about what I'm doing and how to make the 2018 batch better than last year.

    This year was a good year for the Muscadines. A wild grape with an uber-tart skin, their acid level is quite high to begin with. So it takes a lot of water to get the acid/ph down to .65%. Last year I used a dropper/drops testing kit and had a hard time seeing the difference in color change. This year I have a little handy ph digital tester so we'll see how that goes.

    We've got about 100lbs of cleaned de-stemmed grapes which were harvested yesterday. My plan is to do the following:

    1. Press the grapes to extract the juice
    2. Add enough water to bring the ph to .65%
    3. Add sugar to bring the SG to 1.100
    4. Add the must to the straining bag and float that in my primary and sit 24 hours
    5. Pitch the yeast, stir daily checking SG
    6. When my ferment reaches 1.3SG I'll rack this off to my secondary glass carboy(s) and attach an airlock
    7. When secondary reaches 1.00SG I'll rack to a new glass carboy with an airlock
    8. About 8 weeks later I'll rack again with hopes of clearing it all by then naturally
    9. If it tastes like it worked I'll add some stabilizer then 1/4 to 1/2lb sugar per gallon
    10. Bottle, cork, wrap, sticker and sit on it a few months more and see what happens.

    I'm wondering if bottled Spring water is the way to go or just our filtered (heavy limestone content) water. Also wondering what type of yeast to use. I've got some Red Star Montrachet Dry, Lalvin EC-1118 or Red Star Cotes Des Blanc dry to experiment with. I'm wanting a refreshing sweet served chilled for what will most probably turn out as a pinkish/blush look.

    How does this sound for a plan?
     
  2. M38A1

    M38A1 Supporting Members Supporting Member

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    Yesterday was picking 117.7lbs of grapes. Today was culling & de-stem leaving me a net of 101.2lbs of grapes to press. Man I hope my little homemade bucket press is up to the task.....

    If I can't get to pressing these until tomorrow evening, how would you store them? I can't put them in a fridge. Can they stay in the house at room temp of 75*F and be ok?
     
  3. Johnd

    Johnd Large Member Supporting Member

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    Instead of watering to dilute the acid (which also dilutes the body, tannins, and sugar content), consider trying to get some of the acidity down using potassium carbonate to avoid what I mentioned above. We typically don’t water grapes to raise pH, only to dilute high BRIX. Do you monitor BRIX / pH to see how the levels are changing before you harvest? A refractometer and pH meter and a few grapes will tell the tale. As grapes ripen, sugar content increases and acidity decreases, even in grapes that are typically high acid, that might help get you to a better starting pH right out of the gate. Sounds like you’re adjusting the TA, you might consider trying to get the pH into the 3.5 - 3.6 range instead. Just my two cents.
     
  4. M38A1

    M38A1 Supporting Members Supporting Member

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    John,
    Thank you for the reply.....

    This is only my second year to try this so I'm probably the smallest fish in the pond at the moment. For example, last year the total volume was about 11 gallons. My bucket press 'sort of' worked but not as well as I thought it would have. I don't know how other grapes react to pressure, but these Muscadine's have tough skin and there's this really slimy consistency to the juice after pressing. That's clogging up my nylon strainer bag in a significant way. So I tried a bucket press without the bag and it was ok until the 3/16th inch holes in the bucket press got slimy and somewhat clogged I suppose tomorrow I'll go rent the true grape press I used last year but even that seemed inefficient.

    I can understand not watering down the grapes to lower the acid level as it dilutes the body/tannins and sugar. And I have seen BRIX mentioned but don't know what it is, so no - I don't monitor that. Last year I missed the best grapes by about a week and making wine was an "hey let's try this" and the grapes were a bit on the dry side, not plump and a tad bit shriveled. This year I kept an eye on the grapes and we harvested 117lbs yesterday when they were perfectly plump (or at least what I think). That's about all I've done this year is monitor how well they were doing on the vine so I've probably missed the boat on doing anything in that area this year.

    I just purchased a small handheld ph tester. It will measure 1-14pH so once that's calibrated (hopefully tomorrow) I can see where I'm starting with pH. Do you simply add the Potassium Carbonate a little bit at a time to get the pH to 3.5? Then my silly question is, how do you increase volume if I only will extract maybe 4 gallons of pressed juice? Are all wines straight juice?

    Very much looking forward to your thoughts again. And thank you.
     
  5. Johnd

    Johnd Large Member Supporting Member

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    I understand your bucket press problem, a wooden press basket with vertical slats eases a lot of these woes.

    SG and BRIX are both measures of the same thing, sugar content, just with different scales. Most grape growers monitor their grapes progress with a refractometer, which requires a couple drops of juice, using the BRIX scale. Good to have the pH meter!! If you are making a blush / rose’ with those red grapes, you should be shooting for a lower pH than 3.5 / 3.6, something more in the 3.2 range perhaps, and yes, little bits added, go slow.

    Wines are straight juice, unless the BRIX is too high, then a little water may be added. Red Grapes are harvested, crushed (popped) and destemmed into large fermenters, skin, pulp and all, to be fermented and pressed off of the skins near the end of fermentation, not before. The exception is white wine, which is pressed and settled before fermentation. In your case, using red grapes to make rose’ / blush, only a short time on the skins is needed. If you rent the wooden press again, and your grapes are properly crushed (not whole), you should get 6-7 gallons of wine from your harvest.

    Once fermented and cleared, you can backsweeten (with K sorbate added) and bottle.
     
  6. M38A1

    M38A1 Supporting Members Supporting Member

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    John, again, thank you for the quick tutorial.

    I've harvested, culled, washed and de-stemmed up to this point. What I'm understanding from your explanation is I need to break up the grapes, pitch my yeast and let that run a few days and then do the pressing?

    My primary concern is these were picked Saturday, cleaned/de-stemmed Sunday and here we are on Monday and they're still just sitting in buckets in my house. I have about 2 gallons of pressed juice so far but if my process is wrong.......
     
  7. Johnd

    Johnd Large Member Supporting Member

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    Rose' / blush is just a different animal, the longer the grapes are popped and juice is sitting with its skins, the more color they will pick up. How long they sit on the skins is not a science, but more of an art, and depends upon your plan for the wine. I believe that for most blush / rose' wines, that the juice is separated from the skins before fermentation, after only a very short time with the skins.
     
  8. M38A1

    M38A1 Supporting Members Supporting Member

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    I can certainly change the approach at this point..... Last year the end result was a pinkish dry wine and a bit too tart for me. I'm guessing the tartness was due to the grape skins which are acidic to the point of irritating my skin when handling them.

    This year let's just go with whatever is easy knowing I've got 2gallons of juice extracted at the moment and roughly 50lbs of cleaned/de-stemmed in buckets. I have two 6.7gal primaries with air locks, three 5gal glass carboys with airlocks and three 3gal carboys with airlocks. Would you suggest I dump my crushed grapes I have so far back into the 2gal juice, stir it around and pitch the yeast saving the pressing for about 4 days down the road? I can do that as well as smash the remaining 50lbs and pitch some yeast. I'm really open for suggestions at this point.

    My biggest problem with all this is, I've never watched/helped anyone do it before. It's all been watching YouTube lessons and there a a ton of different ways to go. So any guidance would be appreciated on how to proceed this year. My approach is "...it will wind up somewhere between good and bad" so I don't have a ton of high expectations going into this although I'd like to have something drinkable in six months or so.
     
  9. M38A1

    M38A1 Supporting Members Supporting Member

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    This is what last years harvest looked like harvested in June 2017 and this picture end of November 2017
    [​IMG]
     
  10. Johnd

    Johnd Large Member Supporting Member

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    Well that's a fairly dark rose' wine, and that's after you added water to it as well, so your skins must be pretty dark and give up the color readily.

    Try this on for size, take your destemmed grapes and crush them into a bucket(s) and stir them around for a short time, draw out some juice and see how dark it is. If you're happy with iy, press the juice off, if not, let it go longer til you're happy with the color, then combine the juices from both batches.

    Check the SG of the juice and adjust to your desired starting point, making sure it's well stirred. Tackle the acidity of the must next, make sure your pH meter is properly calibrated so you're getting good readings, shooting for a starting pH in 3.2 - 3.3 range. Go slow with the K-carb, stir well between testing, til you get to a good starting point.

    Pitch yeast, you'll probably need nutrients, and ferment to dry. Once dry, rack off of the gross lees and add sulfite at 1/4 tsp / 6 gallons and allow the wine to clear, racking as needed, but boosting the sulfite every three months.

    Once it's crystal clear, with no sediment, and in conjunction with one of your regularly scheduled sulfite additions, add some potassium sorbate as well and stir in. Now you can sweeten your wine, the sorbate will prevent the yeast still present from fermenting the newly added sugar into alcohol. The right amount of sweetness will help overcome the tartness / astringency of the acid if still an issue. Adjusting a small quantity and tasting until you find the right amount of sugar (bench trials) is a good method to use, then adjust the whole batch. After sweetened, wait a few days just to make sure that no fermentation kicks off, and you should be ready to bottle.
     
  11. M38A1

    M38A1 Supporting Members Supporting Member

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    Well John, I think I screwed up five gallons tonight.....

    I had my 2.5gal of pressed juice and ran a pH just to see where I was and it was 2.7 after calibration. I read and re-read my Potassium Bicarbonate label to understand what I was reading. It says "Acid Reduction Powder / 1-1/3tsp per US gallon lowers acid content 0.1%, NOT recommended to reduce acid more than .3%". So that in my mind sort of excluded use of that to get the acid under control since I needed to go .5%. I had already gotten my SG under control at 1.095/BRIX @24 so I pondered what to do next. I fell back to dilution of the juice like I did last year with Spring water but that messed up my SG again. So I had to add more sugar to get SG/BRIX back in line and then it came time to add the Potassium Bicarbonate. So I measured out 6-1/3 tsp (1-1/3 x 5) and got that in slowly as recommended. After a few minutes it started to foam and turn dark brown. So I checked the pH and it was now at 4.0.

    Is this salvageable now? I have some "Acid Blend" powder which the label says "contains food grade citric, maltic and tartaric acid".

    Any guidance would be very much appreciated now.


    .....and I still have 50lbs of grapes picked from Saturday sitting in two buckets on my kitchen floor I don't know what to do with. I think I've simply got more grapes than capacity as I'm running out of primaries and I certainly don't have that many extra carboys around.
     
  12. Johnd

    Johnd Large Member Supporting Member

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    Bummer, now you know why we "go slow" with the additions, little bits at a time, slowly adjusting up to the proper pH. Nuff said there.

    Get your other grapes prepared quickly and get the juice prepared to be added to the current batch and add it in slowly, checking your pH with each little addition, until you get the pH back down into range. Put simply, use the highly acidic juice that you have left to bring your pH back down. I'm not sure how the color of your wine will turn out if it's already brown, acidity is one of the factors in color retention. Once you've adjusted the acidity back down with the juice, correct your SG, which will surely have changed. and get your yeast in there.
     
  13. M38A1

    M38A1 Supporting Members Supporting Member

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    Thank you John. I apologize for posting that in a second thread as I was freaking out over this and wanted to cast a wide net on experience here.

    I'll get more pressed today and see if that can bring down the pH to be more acidic, adjust again the SG/Brix and pitch the yeast today.

    It may be ugly in the end, but if the pH and Brix are good and no bacteria has made it there after this period, and it's a good ferment - would you still think it's "safe" albeit ugly?
     
  14. Johnd

    Johnd Large Member Supporting Member

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    Since you've got some time passing, you should probably hit it with a little sulfite while you get caught up on your activities. I'd probably split 1/4 tsp in half and get that mixed in pretty quickly to protect against oxidation / nasties, particularly if you're in an open fermenter. That amount shouldn't hamper your yeast getting pitched / started later on this evening. At this point in time, with the troubles you've had, consider using the EC-1118, the last thing you need now is a troublesome fermentation.

    We can't ever make promises or predict the outcomes of these things, but musts tend to work their way back in the direction of their origin during fermentation. That is, high pH musts tend to move back up the scale after adjustments, and low pH musts tend to ease back down. Hopefully, that will come to fruition. Some of the browning color may also drop out during clearing, we'll just have to keep our fingers crossed.
     
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2018
  15. M38A1

    M38A1 Supporting Members Supporting Member

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    Thanks....
    So EC-118 is not a typo and it's different than EC-1118? I have a lot of EC-1118 at the moment.

    Regarding the sulfite, what's the technical name? I have some Potassium Metabisulphite. Is that the same thing to kill wild yeast? Package says add 1/4 tsp her 6gal of must.

    I squeezed some more grapes in a mesh bag, maybe 16oz worth and added that. pH is now 3.6 and BRIX 24.8/SG1.096. I think that's about all I can hope for at this point with it. And the brown mostly went away.....

    Let me know on the yeast and sulfite please.
     
  16. Johnd

    Johnd Large Member Supporting Member

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    Yes to both, it's a typo, which I've corrected, use the EC - 1118. Sulfite is Potassium Metabisulphite, just a shorter name to type. I was cutting your dose in half so that you could get your yeast pitched today instead of waiting a day for the sulfite to dissipate, it'll give you a measure of protection until the yeast gets going.

    If you've already got the juice pressed and added and are happy with the current readings, mix the 1/2 dose of sulfite in and stir it well and cover it. Check the numbers again in a few hours and if all is still in line, pitch your yeast and get ready for the ride. If luck is on your side, we may actually see your pH drop a bit as fermentation progresses.
     
  17. M38A1

    M38A1 Supporting Members Supporting Member

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    Man you have been a lifesaver to this point! THANK YOU / THANK YOU / THANK YOU!

    I'll go do that now. Still need to go to the store and get more sugar for the other 5gal primaries which are a bit low on BRIX. Can I toss in the sulfite now with them as well? I'll pitch yeast this evening for all three.
     
  18. M38A1

    M38A1 Supporting Members Supporting Member

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    Potassium Metabisulphite in all three now at 1/8tsp each. Fingers crossed.

    When I pitch the yeast, how much should I use on each 5gal bucket? A full one each?

    Off to the store now for sugar and water....
     
  19. Johnd

    Johnd Large Member Supporting Member

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    Yes, that would be just fine, just trying to get you going so your juice doesn't sit around too long.

    As for the help, you're quite welcome.
     
  20. Johnd

    Johnd Large Member Supporting Member

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    Yes, just use a packet in each bucket, they're 5 gram packets to be clear.............
     

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